Jewish Fundamentalism in Israel

by Israel Shahak and Norton Mezvinky

Pluto Press, 1999, paper


The customary two-way division of Israeli Jewish society rests upon the cornerstone recognition that as a group Israeli Jews are highly ideological. This is best evidenced by their high percentage of voting, which usually exceeds 80 per cent. In the May 1996 elections, over 95 per cent of the better educated, richer, secular Jews and the religious Jews in all categories of education and income voted. After discounting the large number of Israeli Jews who live outside Israel (over 400,000), most of whom did not vote, it can be safely assumed that almost every eligible voter in these two crucial segments of the population voted. Most Israeli political observers by now assume that Israeli Jews are divided into two categories: Israel A and Israel B. Israel A, often referred to as the "left," is politically represented by the Labor and Meretz Parties; Israel B, referred to as the "right" or the "right and religious parties," is comprised of all the other Jewish parties. Almost all of Israel A and a great majority of Israel B (the exception being some of the fundamentalist Jews) strongly adhere to Zionist ideology, which in brief, holds that all or at least the majority of Jews should emigrate to Palestine, which as the Land of Israel, belongs to all Jews and should be a Jewish state. A strong and increasing enmity between these two segments of Israeli society nevertheless exists. There are many reasons for this enmity. The reason relevant to this study is that Israel B, including its secular members, is sympathetic to Jewish fundamentalism while Israel A is not. It is apparent from studies of election results over a long period of time that Israel B has consistently obtained a numerical edge over Israel A. This is ,~ an indication that the number of Jews influenced by Jewish fundamentalism is consistently increasing.

In his article "Religion, Nationalism and Democracy in Israel," published in the Autumn 1994 issue of the periodical, Z' Manim (no. 50-51), Professor Baruch Kimmerling, a faculty member of Hebrew University's sociology department, presented data pertaining to the religious division of Israeli Jewish society. Citing numerous research studies, Kimmerling showed conclusively that Israeli Jewish society is far more divided on religious issues than is generally assumed outside of Israel, where belief in generalizations, such as "common to all Jews," is challenged less than in Israel. Quoting the data of a survey taken by the prestigious Gutman Institute of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Kimmerling pointed out that whereas 19 per cent of Israeli Jews said they prayed daily, another 19 per cent declared that they would not enter a synagogue under any circumstances. Influenced by the Gutman Institute analysis and similar studies, Kimmerling and other scholars have concluded that Israel A and Israel B contain hard-core believers who hold diametrically opposed views of the Jewish religion. This conclusion is almost certainly correct.

More generally, the attitude towards religion in Israeli Jewish ~ ~ society can be divided into three parts. The religious Jews observe , the commandments of the Jewish religion, as defined by Orthodox rabbis, many of whom emphasize observance more than belief. (The number of Reform and/or Conservative Jewish in Israel is small.) The traditional Jews keep some of the more important commandments while violating the more inconvenient ones; they do honor the rabbis and the religion. The secularists may occasionally enter a synagogue but respect neither the rabbis nor the religious institutions. The line between traditional and secular Jews is often vague, but the available studies indicate that 25 to 30 per cent of Israeli Jews are secular, 50 to 55 per cent are traditional and about 20 per cent are religious. Traditional Jews obviously belong to both the Israel A and Israel B categories.

Israeli religious Jews are divided into two distinctly different groups. The members of the religiously more extreme group are called Haredim. (The singular word is Haredi or Hared.) The members of the religiously more moderate group are called religious-national Jews. The religious-national Jews are sometimes called "knitted skullcaps" because of their head covering. Haredim usually wear black skullcaps that are never knitted, or hats. The religious- I national Jews otherwise usually dress in the more usual Israeli fashion, while the Haredim almost always wear black clothes.

The basic tenets of the two groups of religious Jews need some introductory explanation. The word "hared" is a common Hebrew word meaning "fearful." During early Jewish history, it meant "God-fearing" or exceptionally devout. In the mid-nineteenth century it was adopted, first in Germany and Hungary and later in other parts of the diaspora, as the name of the party of religious Jews that opposed any modern innovation. The Ashkenazi Haredim emerged as a backlash group opposed to the Jewish enlightenment ~n general and especially to those Jews who refused to accept the total authority of the rabbis and who introduced innovations into the Jewish worship and life style. Seeing that almost all Jews accepted these innovations, the Haredim reacted even more extremely and banned every innovation. The Haredim to date have insisted upon the strictest observance of the Halacha. An illustrative example of opposition to innovation is the previously mentioned and still current black dress of the Haredim; this was the dress fashion of Jews in Eastern Europe when the Haredim formed themselves into a party. Before that time Jews dressed in many different styles and were often indistinguishable in dress from their neighbors. After a brief time, almost all Jews except for the Haredim again dressed differently. The Halacha, moreover, does not enjoin Jews to dress in black and/or to wear thick black coats and heavy fur caps during the hot summer or at any other time. Yet, Haredim in Israel continue to do so in opposition to innovation; they insist that dress be kept as it was in Europe around 1850. A11 other considerations, including climatic ones, are overridden.

In contrast to the Haredim, the religious-nationalist Jews of the NRP made their compromises with modernity at the beginning of the 1920s when the split between the two large groupings in religious Judaism first appeared in Palestine. This can be immediately observed in their dress, which, with the exception of a small skullcap, is conventional. Even more importantly, this is evident in their selective observance of the Halacha, for example, in their rejection of many commandments regarding women. NRP members do not hesitate to admit women to positions of authority

in many of their organizations and in the political party itself. Before both the 1992 and 1996 elections the NRP published and distributed an advertisement, containing photographs of various public figures including some women supporting the party, and boasted more broadly on television of female support. Haredim did not and would not do this. Even when Haredim, who ban television watching for themselves, decided to present some television election programs directed to other Jews, they insisted that all participants be male. During the 1992 campaign the editors of a Haredi weekly consulted the rabbinical censor about whether or not to publish the above-mentioned NRP advertisement. The rabbinical censor ordered the paper to publish the advertisement with all photographs of the NRP women blotted out. The editors did what the censor ordered. Outraged, the NRP sued the newspaper for libel and sought damages in Israeli secular courts, disregarding the rulings of Haredi rabbis prohibiting using secular courts to settle disputes among Jews.

The religious-nationalist Jewish compromises with modernity regarding women are exceedingly complicated in many ways. The Halacha forbids Jewish males to listen to women singing whether in a choir or solo regardless of what is sung. This is stated directly in the halachic ruling that a voice of a woman is adultery. This is interpreted by later halachic rulings stipulating that the word "voice" here means a woman's singing not speaking. This rule, originating in the Talmud, occurs in all codes of law. A Jewish male who willingly listens to a woman's singing commits a sin equivalent either to adultery or fornication. The great majority of NRP faithful members, nevertheless, listen to women singing and thus commit "adultery" routinely. Some of the most strict NRP members, especially among the religious settlers in the West Bank, have not only puzzled over this problem but at times have tried to solve the problem of how to adjust by developing creative approaches. In the early 1990s some of the settlers founded a new radio station, Arutz, or Channel, 7. For their station to become successful and to appeal as broadly as possible to Israeli Jews, the settlers understood that the songs of the fashionable singers of the day, some of whom were women, would have to be broadcast. The rabbinical censor, however, has refused to allow a breach of the Halacha whereby male listeners would hear female singers and thus commit "adultery." After further consultation with the censor, the settlers devised an acceptable solution that is still being employed. Men sing the songs, made popular by women; the male voices are then electronically changed to the female pitch and are broadcast accordingly over Arutz 7. A part of the traditional public is satisfied by this expedient, and the learned NRP rabbis insist that no adultery is committed when men listen to the songs being sung.

The Haredim obviously have rejected and condemned this accommodation and to date have refused to listen to Arutz 7. Even more importantly, the Haredim, after increasing somewhat their political power in the 1988 elections, were able to impose their position in this regard upon the whole state by forcing a change in the opening of the new Knesset session. The opening ceremony previously began with the singing of "Hatikva," the Israeli national anthem, by a mixed male female choir. After the 1988 election, in deference to Haredi sensitivities, a male singer replaced the mixed choir. After the 1992 election, won by Labor, an all-male choir of the Military Rabbinate sang "Hatikva."

How can the Haredim, who altogether constitute only a small percentage of Israel's Jewish population, at times, either alone or even with the help of the NRP, impose their will upon the rest of society? The facile explanation is that both the Labor and Likud parties kowtow to the Haredim for political support. This explanation is insufficient. The kowtowing continued between 1984 and 1990 during the time that Labor and Likud had formed a coalition. Currying favor from the Haredim for alignment purposes was then politically unnecessary. The offered explanation, furthermore, does not adequately take into account the special affinity of all the religious parties, perceived since 1980 as fundamentalist, to Likud and other secular right-wing parties. This affinity, especially between Likud and the Haredi religious parties, based upon a shared world outlook, is at the crux of Israeli politics. (This affinity is analogous to that existing between Christian and Muslim fundamentalists and their secular right parties.) The relatively simple case of the NRP illustrates this well. The NRP recognizes, although does not always follow, the same halachic authorities as do the Haredi parties. The NRP also adheres to the same ideals relating to the Jewish past and, more importantly, to the future when Israel's triumph over the non-Jews will allegedly be secure. The differences between the NRP and the Haredim stem from the NRP's belief that redemption has begun and will soon be completed by the imminent coming of the Messiah. The Haredim do not share this belief. The NRP believes that special circumstances at the beginning of redemption justify temporary departures from the ideal that could help advance the process of redemption. NRP support in some situations for military service for talmudic scholars is a relevant example here. These deviant NRP ideas have been undermined since the 1970s by the expanding Haredi influence upon increasing numbers of NRP followers who have resisted departures from strict talmudic norms and have favored Haredi positions. This process has been counter-balanced to some extent by the growth in prestige of the NRP settlers who are esteemed as pioneers of messianism even though the assassination of Prime Minister Rabin by a messianist may have momentarily increased Haredi prestige.

The religious influence upon the Israeli right-wing of Israel B is attributable both to its militaristic character and its widely shared world outlook. Secular and militaristic right-wing, Israeli Jews hold political views and engage in rhetoric similar to that of religious Jews. For most Likud followers, "Jewish blood" is the reason why Jews are in a different category than non-Jews, including, of course, even those non-Jews who are Israeli citizens and who serve in the Israeli army. For religious Jews, the blood of non-Jews has no intrinsic value; for Likud, it has limited value. Menachem Begin's masterful use of such rhetoric about Gentiles brought him votes and popularity and thus constitutes a case in point. The difference in this respect between Labor and Likud is rhetorical but is nevertheless important in that it reveals part of a world outlook. In 1982, for example, when the Israeli army occupied Beirut, Rabin representing Labor, although advocating the same policies as favored by Sharon and Likud, did not explain the Sabra and Shatila Camp massacres by stating, as did Begin: "Gentiles kill Gentiles and blame the Jews." Even if Rabin had himself been capable of saying this, he knew that most of his secular supporters in Labor, who distinguish between Gentiles who hate Jews and those who do not, would not have tolerated such a statement. They would have repudiated such rhetoric as being both untrue and harmful.

Religious influence is evident in the right's general reverence for the Jewish past and its insistence that Jews have an historic right to an expanded Israel extending beyond its present borders. More than other secular Israelis, members of the Israeli right insist upon Jewish uniqueness. During many centuries of their existence, the great majority of Jews were similar in some ways to the present-day Haredim. Thus, those Jews who today revere the Jewish past as evidence of Jewish uniqueness respect to some extent religious Jews as perpetuators of that past. An essential part of the right's emphasis upon uniqueness is its hatred of the concept of "normality," that is, that Jews are similar to other people and have the same desire for stability as do other nations. Some cultural affinities between secular and religious Jews of the Israeli right are not primarily ideological. Many Likud supporters, whether Sephardic or Ashkenazi in origin, are traditionalists; they view rabbis as glamorous figures and are affected by childhood memories of the patriarchal family in which education was dominated by the grandfather and the women "knew their place." Although most pronounced in those of the religious vanguard, such considerations also affect secular Jews of the right. The right often exaggerates the beauty and superiority of the Jewish past, especially when arguing for the preservation of Jewish uniqueness.

Those chauvinistic Jews who speak with utmost confidence about Israel's power and ability to impose its will upon the Middle East are most susceptible to such fears. The same people who predict that a second Holocaust will almost immediately occur if Israel makes any concession to the Arabs also often state categorically that the Israeli army, if not restrained by politicians, by Americans, or by leftist Jews, could conquer Baghdad within one week. (Ariel Sharon actually made this claim a few months before the outbreak of the October 1973 war.) The fear and the self-confidence co-exist harmoniously. The belief in Jewish uniqueness enhances this coexistence. Most foreign observers do not realize that a sizeable segment of the Israeli Jewish public holds these chauvinistic views. The schizophrenic blend of inordinate fears and exaggerated self-confidence, common to the Israeli secular right and religious Jews, resembles ideas held by anti-Semites who usually view Jews as being at the same time both powerful and easy to defeat. This is one of the reasons why attitudes of Israeli right-wing individuals toward the Gentiles, especially toward the Arabs, resemble so closely the attitudes of anti-Semites toward the Jews.

The secular right and the religious Jews also share other fears. They fear the West and its public opinion. They fear and condemn Jewish leftists, a term sufficiently broad to include most Labor followers, for not being sufficiently Jewish, for preferring Arabs to Jews and for living lives of delusion. They view the left as dangerous because of its ability to attract new recruits, especially from the ranks of the country's intellectual elite.

The issue of normalcy most divides the Israeli right from the left. The left longs for normalcy and wants Jews to be a nation like all other nations. The entire Israeli right, on the other hand, is united in its resentment of the idea of normalcy and its belief, along the lines of the Jewish religion, that Jews are exceptional - different from other people and nations. Reverence for the national past allegedly solidifies this uniqueness. Religious Jews believe that God made the Jews unique; many of the secular right believe that Jews are doomed to be unique by their past and have no free choice in this matter.

Another, but somewhat less important, reason for the affinity between the secular right and religious Jews is that the latter are capable of providing "convincing" arguments for perpetual Jewish rule over the land of Israel and for the denial of certain basic rights to the Palestinians. These arguments are not only put in terms of national security but more importantly in terms of the God-given right to these territories. The secular Likud scholars and politicians are often far too alienated from the Jewish past and Jewish values to talk competently, or indeed even to understand properly, such matters. Only the religious can provide an in-depth rationale for Likud's policies, which are grounded not in short-term strategic considerations but rather in the long history of the special relationship between God and his chosen people.

Although expanding steadily from the early 1970s, Jewish religious fundamentalism in Israel attracted relatively little interest in the dominant secularly oriented Israeli society until 1988. Members of the various Haredi sects, generally self-contained in residentially segregated areas of Israeli cities, led lives absorbed by concerns and preoccupations that appeared exotic at best to outsiders. Although some members of these sects clashed sharply over specific issues with the secular part of Israeli society and at those times acquired a bit of public attention, they were mostly ignored. The sensational Haredi political success in the Israeli parliamentary elections of 1988, predicted by none of the professional pollsters, surprised many people. Because of their continued political successes in succeeding elections through the 1 990s, the Haredim put themselves into a position at various times to be able to dictate to the Israeli secular majority.

... Concern with education has provided the major answer to both questions. The Haredi have on balance successfully educated their own children and other Jewish children, over whom they have obtained custody, in a manner guaranteeing maximum continuity. The Haredi have influenced many Israeli Jews in addition to their own by acquiring direct authority over several school networks and by indirectly influencing numbers of other schools.

Throughout the twentieth century, the Haredim have attempted to continue Jewish education as it had mostly existed in the diaspora before the Enlightenment influenced Jewish society. The governments in the countries in which the Haredim lived, however, have at times insisted upon some modernized curricular content that was inconsistent with and in opposition to what had previously been taught in Jewish schools. This was the case in Israel until 1980. Since 1980, helped by generous Israeli governmental subsidies, the Haredim have attempted with some success to reimpose the earlier type of Jewish education and the earlier school networking system in many poorer provincial Israeli towns and in slum areas of larger Israeli cities. The Haredi goal has obviously been to perpetuate their educational influence upon an increasing segment of younger generation Israelis.

The granting of special privileges for pursuing sacred studies exists in modern Israeli society. One of the most controversial issues in the State of Israel has been, and continues to be, the deferments from military service for most students and graduates of yeshivot. These students and graduates first receive a draft deferment on the basis of declarations from heads of yeshivot. When their deferments expire, the students or graduates are either entirely exempted from army service or are inducted directly into the army reserve forces after undergoing only brief and cursory recruit training. They are disqualified from serving in any dangerous or even unpleasant capacities. Their chances of being killed or wounded in wartime are thus greatly reduced. Their deferments mean that these students or graduates do not have to serve in the army for the period of three years, which is compulsory for all other Israeli Jewish males who are between the ages of eighteen and twenty-one. In his analysis of this situation, Ehud Asheri reported in his August 22, 1996 article, published in Haaretz, that at that time 5 per cent of all Jewish males were so deferred.

The vehement passions aroused by and the debates over this issue have antagonistically deepened the split between Israeli Jewish secularists and the Haredim. Currently, many secular Jews complain, as they and others have in the past, that the Haredim do not share equally with other Israeli Jews the tasks and burdens imposed upon society. The Haredim argue, as they continually have in the past, that such reasoning is fallacious. Influenced by their education, the Haredim are convinced that all victories as well as defeats of the Israeli army are due to God's intervention and that without doubt God takes into consideration the numbers, progress in study and commitment of those Jews who engage in talmudic study. The Haredim cite numerous passages in the Talmud and in subsequent talmudic literature that are emphatic on this point. Not only the privileged students and graduates of yeshivot but also traditional Israeli Jews support the Haredim and the cited sacred Jewish writings on this point.

The attitude of many secular Israeli Jews towards sacred studies and the Talmud is the exact opposite of that held by the Haredim. Secularly oriented parodies of the Talmud have remained popular and still abound in Israeli society. Many of these parodies revolve around the Haredi rationale underlying the deferment and exclusion from military service. In December 1988, for example, during one of the recurrent disputations about the deferment from service of yeshiva students, the Haredim pointed to the talmudic version of the biblical account of the victories of Yo'av, the general of King David. The Haredim quoted the talmudic interpretation that these victories were attributable to David's sacred studies, since in their view Talmud in an oral form dated back to Moses and perhaps to Abraham and was written later. Some secular writers responded publicly that David rather remained at home and sent Yo'av to fight, because he was occupied in committing adultery with Bathsheba and causing the death of her husband, Uriah. One columnist in the Israeli press, certainly not Haredi-oriented, opined that David was probably more keen about studying Bathsheba's bodily curvature than he was about studying the Talmud. Such debate has had, and continues to have, a bearing upon Israel similar in some ways to the effect upon politics that similar debate had in Christian Europe in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. What many foreign observers of Israeli Jewish society have not grasped is that, even with the scientific and technological accomplishments in Israel, the Haredim and most other Israeli Jewish fundamentalists live figuratively in a time period that corresponds closely to European Christian societies many generations ago. These fundamentalists have not made the quantum leap, as have secular Israelis, into modern times. The tension between fundamentalist and secular Israelis, therefore, stems mostly from the fact that these two groups live in different time periods.

Haredim often propound theories even more extreme than those mentioned previously. Many Haredi rabbis, for example, assert that the Holocaust, including most particularly the deaths of one-and-a-half million Jewish children, was a well-deserved divine punishment, not only for all the sins of modernity and faith renunciation by many Jews, but also for the decline of Talmudic study in Europe. The Haredim and their traditional Jewish followers attribute the death of every Jew, including each innocent child, not to natural causes but to direct action of God. The Haredim believe that God punishes each Jew for his or her sins and sometimes punishes the entire Jewish community, including many who are innocent, because of the sins committed by other Jews. In 1985, when twenty-two children, twelve and thirteen years of age, were killed in the town of Petah Tikva in a traffic accident involving their bus, Rabbi Yitzhak Peretz, one of the heads of the Shas Party and the then Minister of the Interior, stated in a television appearance that the children were victims, because a movie house was allowed to remain open on the Sabbath eve. Many members of the Hebrew press, predominantly representing secular Jews, attacked Rabbi Peretz mercilessly for making this statement. The Shas Party, nevertheless, in the next election did not lose but rather gained votes in various places, including Petah Tikva. The Haredim held and advocate similar beliefs about God's punishing and rewarding Jews in many areas of life on the basis of Jews' either committing sins or following God's word.

In the late 1 990s, the primary concern of the Haredim is to expand their educational system, especially in poorer localities wherein they successfully offer material inducements such as hot meals. The Haredim strongly lobby the non-Haredi public schools with their propaganda. In some places these lobbying efforts are successful. In other areas the fierce opposition by parents who are educated and politically effective thwarts the Haredi propaganda and lobbying efforts. Haredi influence is sometimes extreme in specific places. In Netivot, one of the most religious towns in Israel, for example, the Haredim have successfully opposed any public high school, because it would be obligated to provide instruction in secular subjects. Netivot is the only Jewish town in Israel without a high school.

In order to proselytize and to spread their superstitions, Haredim often exploit the distress of people. Relatives of terminally ill hospital patients, especially if they are traditional, are often approached by messengers of a charismatic rabbi, who first reiterate that the doctors cannot help and then suggest that the relatives buy some sacred water, consecrated by a certain rabbi, and smear the patient with it. The messengers relate stories about miracles that occur after the use of this sacred water, which is never distributed without a non-returnable payment. The messengers, of course, never mention the failure of sacred water miracles. The secular Hebrew press at times will report on the failure of these miracles, especially when a large amount of money is known to have been spent for the sacred water. Such reporting, however, most often only deepens the chasm between those who read and those who do not read but loathe the secular Hebrew press. In their own press the Haredim not only attack the secular press but also display their general hostility towards secular Israeli Jews. Until the later part of the 1 980s, most of the Israeli Jewish public paid little attention to the Haredi press. Since then, general public attention has increased considerably. Dov Albaum, one of Israel's foremost experts on Haredi affairs, focused upon this point in two Hebrew-language articles, one published in the August 30, 1996 issue of the newspaper, Yediot Ahronot, the other published in the July-August issue of the bi-monthly periodical, Ha'ain Hashvi'it (The Seventh Eye), which is published by the Israeli Democracy Institute and is devoted to analyzing the Israeli press. Albaum discussed the structure of the Haredi press in Yediot Ahronot and then proceeded to a discussion in Ha'ain Hashvi'it of the Haredi attitude as a whole towards secular Israeli Jews. According to Albaum, the violent attacks in the Haredi press upon Aharon Barak, the president of the Israeli Supreme Court, attracted increased public attention. The Haredi press called Barak "the most dangerous enemy ever to face the Haredi public." Albaum pointed out that the earlier Haredi press attacks upon the left-wing kibbutzim, the Israeli army, the secular media and many other secular institutions and figures aroused little general interest. The attack upon the Supreme Court, long regarded as the holiest symbol of Israeli secular democracy, piqued the interest of many secular Jews. The violent Haredi press attacks upon Yitzhak Rabin, while he was prime minister, did not have the same effect. Shortly before Rabin's assassination an article in one of the most popular Haredi weekly publications, Ha'Shavua (The Week) predicted:

The day will come when the Jews will bring Rabin and Peres to the defendant's bench in court with the only two alternatives being the noose or the insane asylum. This insane and evil pair have either gone mad or are obvious traitors. Rabin and Peres have guaranteed their place in the Jewish memory as evil Jews of the worst kind. They resemble the apostates or the Jews who served the Nazis.

Reiterating that secular Jewish interest in Israel heightened after the attack upon Barak and the Supreme Court, Albaum observed that increasing numbers of secular Israelis are insulted when they read in the Haredi press that their lives are garbage and their children are hallucinating, lifeless drug addicts. Albaum explained:

Haredi journalists deliberately exaggerate all marginal phenomena in secular society. They describe all murders, cases of alcoholism and hard drug situations as characteristics of secular Jewish society. In addition, they allege as facts incorrect statements, engage in the wildest forms of slander and often use the most derogatory terminology. Their aim is to condemn absolutely the secular, Jewish lifestyle.

It is difficult to avoid considering such depiction as analogous to the Nazi methodology.

By design, Haredi rabbis and politicians select secular women in politics as the primary targets of their attacks, even though they could pinpoint secular men as much, if not more, for transgressions of religious law. The Haredim repeatedly refer to Jewish women, engaged in politics, as witches, bitches or demons. Although a bit crude at times in the use of descriptive language, the Haredim approach mirrors to a great extent traditional Judaism's broadly based position regarding women. This position not only restricts the rights of women but in many ways holds women in contempt. Rule 8 in Chapter 3 of the Kitzur Shulhan Aruch (Abridgment of Shulhan Aruch), an elementary textbook for Jews with little talmudic education, for example, dictates: "A male should not walk between two females or two dogs or two pigs. In the same manner the males should not allow a woman, dog or pig to walk between them. " A11 Haredi boys between the ages of ten and twelve study and are required to observe this rule. (Few dogs and no pigs can be found in Haredi neighborhoods.) Traditional Judaism also prohibits women from playing even insignificant roles in politics and/or in any public activities in which they may appear to be leading males. Women are forbidden to drive buses or taxis; they can drive private cars only if no males apart from those in their own families or other women are passengers. These and many rules are followed in Haredi neighborhoods. In these neighborhoods women who are "dressed immodestly" are often insulted and/or assaulted. Many traditionally religious Jewish males in other than Haredi neighborhoods, who do not observe inconvenient religious commandments, take the lead of the Haredim in resenting and opposing participation of women in politics. These traditionally religious males regard such participation by women as a threat to their domination of their own families.

The numerous misogynistic statements in the Talmud and in talmudic literature constitute a part of every Haredi male's sacred study. The statement in Tractate Shabat, page 152b, defining a woman is exemplary: "A woman is a sack full of excrement. " The learned Talmudic Encyclopedia (volume 2, pages 255-7), written in modern Hebrew and thus understandable to all educated Israeli Jews, devotes a section to the "nature and behavior of women. " In this section the proposition appears that the urge for the sexual act is greater among men than among women. The evidence presented for this is that men tend to hire women prostitutes because their urge for sex is greater than the urge of women. For that reason the Halacha punishes a wife who refuses to have sexual relations with her husband much more severely than it punishes a husband who refuses to have sexual relations with his wife. For the same reason a prospective husband is obliged to see his wife-to-be before marrying her but a prospective wife is not obligated to see her husband-to-be before marriage. After seeing his prospective bride, moreover, the prospective husband can send a messenger and conduct the marriage through the messenger. Jewish folklore contains stories describing the utilization of this procedure.

Many Israeli Jews, who in their youth received thorough talmudic educations, have later in their lives reacted antagonistically against Orthodox Judaism's depiction and treatment of women. Some of these Jews in reaction have written articles that are often published in the Israeli Hebrew press but are almost never translated into English. Kadid Leper, for example, a well-known Israeli journalist who as a youth studied in a yeshiva for years before becoming a secularist, wrote in his April 18, 1997 Hai'r article under the title "Woman is a sack full of excrement," the following:

Beatings, sexual brutality, cruelty, deprival of rights, use of a woman as merely a sexual object; you can find all of this there [in the Talmud] ... For two thousand years women had a well-defined place in the Jewish religion [Orthodox Judaism]; this place is different from what the rabbinical establishment describes; according to the Halacha, the place of women is in the garbage heap together with cattle and slaves. According to the Jewish religion [Orthodox Judaism] a man buys for himself a slave woman for her entire life simply by providing food and dress and granting to his wife the sexual act.

This kind of published article, together with the many published reports of rabbinical harassment of women, have not only firmed polarization in Israeli Jewish society but have contributed significantly to the growing secular enmity towards Haredim.

In many areas of Israeli Jewish society, the Haredim continue to maintain their separateness and at the same time assert that other Jews accept Haredi dicta. This is well illustrated by an example from the area of medicine. In his December 25, 1995 Yediot Ahronot article, Dov Albaum discussed the request submitted two weeks previously by the Haredim to the Israeli Ministry of Health:

Rabbi Yehoshua Sheinberger, the head of the Medicine by Law Organization, requested what seemed to be an innocent request that, as a concession to the religious Jews, personal blood donations be permitted. Previously, a person who donated a unit of blood for a patient undergoing surgery received a document entitling the recipient of the donation to one unit of blood from the general reserves of the Blood Bank. This new request, if accepted, would create a situation in which blood donors would be able to demand that hospitals or first aid stations give their blood donations only to specific recipients.

Rabbi Sheinberger, supported by two other important rabbis, argued that Haredim usually refuse to donate blood but might change their attitude if this demand were accepted. Albaum in his article discussed the additional motivation behind this request:

Beneath the surface there is a completely different problem that led to the rabbis' approaching the [Israeli] Ministry of Health. Haredi religious law authorities have in recent years dealt with the following issue: "Is it permissible for a pious Jew to receive a blood transfusion from non-Jews or from Jews who do not observe Jewish religious laws?" Haredi rabbis fear that, receiving "tainted," secular blood, or non-Jewish blood might cause a pious Jew to behave badly and even, heaven forbid, harm his observance of the Jewish religious laws.

Several months before the above-mentioned request, Rabbi Ovadia Yoseph addressed this problem at length in his new book, Questions and Answers - Statements: "Blood that comes from forbidden [that is, non-kosher] foods may cause a negative effect upon its Jewish recipients. It may produce bad qualities, such as cruelty and/or boldness ... Therefore, a pious Jew, who does urgently need a transfusion and who faces no danger in waiting to receive blood from a strictly religious Jew, should wait." Rabbi Yoseph offered similar advice for those pious Jews needing organ transplants; he advised them only to accept such donations from other pious Jews. This dictate erupted into a serious dispute among rabbis in Israel and astonished many secular Jews. In another published article, Albaum reported that Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, a former chief rabbi of Israel, disagreed with Rabbi Yoseph and stated: "When a secular Jew is born, he is born with kosher blood and all the forbidden foods that he later eats are dissolved and made marginal in his blood." In regard to non-Jews, however, Rabbi Eliyahu mostly agreed with Rabbi Yoseph and held that religious Jews should attempt to avoid blood donations from them. Rabbi Eliyabu did not totally forbid blood donations for Jews from non-Jews. He stated:

It is permitted at certain times that Jews receive blood, or in the case of sucklings mother's milk, from non-Jews, in spite of the fact that such blood is detrimental to their Jewish characteristics and spirit. This is because blood is transferred slowly and is made marginal in the cycling of Jewish blood in the body. Nevertheless, when possible, a Jew should avoid receiving such blood.

Rabbi Sheinberger finally admitted that such rulings constituted the primary reason for his request: "The Haredi community has a problem in this area. For the Haredim blood from a Jew who eats only kosher food is preferable to blood from a Jew who does not observe dietary laws." Other Haredi rabbis agreed. Rabbi Levy Yitzhak Halperin, the head of the Scientific Religious Institute for Jewish Law Problems explained: "Blood donations from non-Jews or from Jews who eat forbidden foods are a problem. Jewish religious law holds that a Jewish child should preferably not be breast fed by a non-Jewish woman because her milk consists of forbidden food and contaminates the Jewish child." Such positions and statements antagonized secular Jews and met great opposition from the great majority of members of the Israeli medical profession.

In 1994 Rabbi Sheinberger ignited another controversy and created scandal with a similar request. He met with senior physicians from the Israel Transplants Association and discussed with them the Jewish religious prohibition on organ donations. In Israel Haredi Jews refuse organ transplants from their and/or their relatives' corpses. On this issue the Haredi position influences many people for superstitious as well as religious reasons. Organ transplants in Israel are thus difficult to arrange. Surgeons frequently request Haredi rabbis to appeal to their followers to agree to organ transplants from corpses of their relatives in order to save lives. The surgeons' argument is based upon the Jewish religious law giving priority to saving Jewish lives. In his discussion Rabbi Sheinberger put the condition that only a Haredi rabbi could authorize such transplants. He explained: "Jewish religious law states that it is forbidden to transplant Jewish organs into either non-Jews or Jews who are not pious. It is obvious that it is prohibited under any circumstances to transplant Jewish organs into Arabs, all of whom hate Jews." Rabbi Sheinberger, when asked for his definition of a Jew who is not pious, replied that a rabbi must determine the status of every Jew. Sheinberger's request caused a huge commotion and was rejected.

Many non-Haredi rabbis allow an organ of a non-Jew to be transplanted into a body of a Jew in order to save the life of the Jew. They, however, oppose the transplant of an organ from a Jew into the body of a non-Jew. Some important rabbis go much further in discussing and ruling about differences between Jews and nonJews on medical matters. Rabbi Yitzhak Ginsburgh, an influential member of the Habad movement and the head of a yeshiva near Nablus, for instance, opined in an April 26, 1996 Jewish Week article, reproduced in Haaretz that same day: "If every single cell in a Jewish body entails divinity, and is thus part of God, then every strand of DNA is a part of God. Therefore, something is special about Jewish DNA." Rabbi Ginsburgh drew two conclusions from this statement: "If a Jew needs a liver, can he take the liver of an innocent non-Jew to save him? The Torah would probably permit that. Jewish life has an infinite value. There is something more holy and unique about Jewish life than about non-Jewish life." It is noteworthy that Rabbi Ginsburgh is one of the authors of a book lauding Baruch Goldstein, the Patriarchs' Cave murderer. In that book Ginsburgh contributed a chapter in which he wrote that a Jew's killing non-Jews does not constitute murder according to the Jewish religion and that killing of innocent Arabs for reasons of revenge is a Jewish virtue. No influential Israeli rabbi has publicly l opposed Ginsburgh's statements; most Israeli politicians have remained silent; some Israeli politicians have openly supported him.

In early 1974, almost immediately after the shock of the October 1973 war and a short time before the ceasefire agreement with Syria was signed, Rabbi Kook's followers with their leader's blessing and spiritual guidance founded Gush Emunim (Block of the Faithful). The Gush Emunim aims were to initiate new and to expand already existent Jewish settlements in the Occupied Territories. With the help of Shimon Peres, who in the summer of 1974 became the Israeli defense minister and thus the person in charge of the Occupied Territories, Gush Emunim in the remarkably short time of a few years succeeded in changing Israeli settlement policy. The Jewish settlements, which continue to spread throughout the West Bank and to occupy a large chunk of the Gaza Strip, provide testimony of and documentation for Gush Emunim's influence within Israeli society and upon Israeli governmental policies.

Gush Emunim's success in changing Israeli settlement policy in the 1 970s is politically explicable. Defense Minister Moshe Dayan determined Israeli settlement policy from the end of the 1967 war until 1974. He did not allow the establishment of Jewish settlements in the bulk of the territories. The only exception he made was to allow a tiny group of Jewish settlers to live near Hebron. Dayan wanted to envelop the densely inhabited parts of these areas by creating a settlement zone in the almost uninhabited Jordan Valley and northern Sinai (the Yamit area). In order to preserve the Israeli alliance with the feudal notables who were in firm control of the villages (although not of the larger towns), Dayan promised not to confiscate village lands; he mostly kept his promise. Gush Emunim demonstrated its strength by organizing enormous demonstrations in 1974 and 1975 opposing the Dayan promise. These demonstrations were also directed against United States Secretary of State Henry Kissinger for backing the Dayan policy. Peres, who became defense minister after Dayan in 1974 in the first Rabin government (1974-77), initiated a new policy which he called "functional compromise" and for which he acquired Gush Emunim support. According to this policy all the land inside the West Bank and the Gaza Strip that was not being used by the inhabitants could be confiscated for the exclusive use of the Jews. Palestinian political leaders who accepted this new policy arrangement would be offered absolute rule over Palestinians. The government of the State of Israel would control only certain essential functions in Palestinian areas.

Prime Minister Rabin at first opposed this policy. In 1975, Peres conspired with Gush Emunim and planned strategy to combat Rabin's opposition. Gush Emunim organized a mass rally in Sebastia, a disused railway station near Nablus. Rabin forbade the demonstration, but Gush Emunim demonstrators succeeded in circumventing the army roadblocks and assembled in Sebastia. During the period of the ensuing lengthy negotiations Peres lent some support to Gush Emunim. More demonstrators arrived on the scene. Finally, a compromise settlement that favored Gush Emunim was reached. Gush Emunim members were allowed to settle in what is now the flourishing settlement of Kedumim. Operating in much the same manner, Gush Emunim in 1976 with the help of Peres founded the settlement Ofra as a temporary work camp and the settlement Shilo as a temporary archaeological camp. Gush Emunim also pursued similar policies and initiated settlement beginnings in the Gaza Strip. The Gush Emunim settlements, agreed to by Peres in 1975 and 1976, still exist and are flourishing. Following the 1977 election of Menachem Begin as prime minister, a "holy alliance" of the religious Gush Emunim and successive secular Israeli governments occurred and has remained in place to date.

Having achieved settlement policy successes, Gush Emunim rabbis cleverly conducted a number of political intrigues and were able to achieve domination of the NRP. From the mid-1980s the NRP has followed the ideological lead of Gush Emunim. After the death of Rabbi Kook the younger, the spiritual leadership of Gush Emunim became centered in a semi-secret rabbinical council, selected by mysterious criteria from among the most outstanding disciples of Rabbi Kook. These rabbis have continued to make policy decisions based upon their belief in certain innovative elements of ideology not openly advocated or detailed but derived from their distinct interpretation of Jewish mysticism, popularly known as Cabbala. The writings of Rabbi Kook the elder serve as the sacred texts and are perhaps intentionally even more obscure than other cabbalistic writings. In-depth knowledge of talmudic and cabbalistic literature, including modem interpretations of both, and special training are prerequisites for understanding Kook's writings. The implications of Kook's writings are theologically too innovative to allow for a popularized presentation to an otherwise educated Jewish public. This is probably the reason why so few analyses of the Gush Emunim ideology have appeared. The one significant a

There can be little doubt that Gush Emunim has seriously affected Israeli Jewish religious leaders and lay people. During the time of the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, for example, the military rabbinate in Israel, clearly influenced by the ideas of the two Rabbi Kooks, exhorted all Israeli soldiers to follow in the footsteps of Joshua and to re-establish his divinely ordained conquest of the land of Israel. This exhortation of conquest included extermination of non-Jewish inhabitants.

Media coverage of Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories has primarily focused upon effects on Palestinians and the threat posed to peaceful resolution of conflict. From the prospective of Jewish .fundamentalism the religious settlements should be viewed from three standpoints: their standing as citadels of messianic ideology, their present and potential influence upon Israeli society and their potential role as the nuclei of the new society that messianic leaders want to build.

Such discussion must be preceded by two comments concerning the settlements, as viewed by Israeli society. The first comment is that a great majority of Israeli citizens, represented by Knesset members, favor Israel's retaining all settlements. In early 1999, at least 100 of the 120 Knesset members, including all the Labor Party members, almost certainly support this position even though minor differences exist about the form of retention.

Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was murdered for religious reasons. The murderer and his sympathizers were and still are convinced that the killing was dictated by God and was therefore a commandment of Judaism. Comprehensive surveys, published in the Hebrew press, of people in religious neighborhoods and especially religious settlements indicated great sympathy for the murder. The polarization of approval and disapproval in the Israeli Jewish community over the killing of the prime minister of the Jewish state has increased since the time of the murder.

Pre-modem Judaism was characterized by many cases of interJewish violence ... What occurred in Jewish fundamentalism is not dissimilar to what occurred in other forms of fundamentalism. Some innovations have been made, largely to disguise true intent. The predominant wish ideologically is to return to the supposedly "good times" when everything was seen and kept in proper order. In the case of the Jewish messianic variety of fundamentalism, the idea is to use modem methods to achieve the power to re-establish the traditional way of life in an effectual manner. The dangers of Jewish fundamentalism being established in Israel as at least part of the ruling power are great. For non-Jews in the Middle East, the Arabs and especially the Palestinians, the main danger is in and with the messianic variety of Jewish fundamentalism. This is most apparent in the role of the Jewish religious settlers in the Occupied Territories. For Israeli Jews who will not accept the tenets of Jewish fundamentalism, however, all varieties are dangerous. The Jewish fundamentalist attitude towards heretics is much worse than is the attitude towards non-Jews. This is analogous to the situation in other religions. A contemporary example is the attitude of the Iranian regime to Baha'ists, regarded as Muslim heretics, which is much worse than the attitude towards Christians and Jews. Our firm belief is that a fundamentalist Jewish regime, if it came to power in Israel, would treat Israeli Jews who did not accept its tenets worse than it would treat Palestinians.

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